The big story of the spring for Jeter was his new swing, some mechanical adjustments Kevin Long made to help Jeter with his timing. Unfortunately, the Yankees’ captain never got comfortable with the changes, and more or less scrapped them not long into the season. After a very disappointing 2010 campaign, Jeter wasn’t doing any better in the new year as he marched towards 3,000 hits. And then he got hurt.
At the time, Jeter’s strained calf seemed like just another unfortunate event in the sudden decline of a sure fire Hall of Famer, but in respect it was the biggest of blessings in disguise. Put on the disabled list, Jeter was sent to the team’s facility (and his own home) in Tampa to rehab the leg injury, and while there Jeter re-tooled his swing in a way he was comfortable with. After a brief stop in Trenton to be ritually humiliated or something, Jeter returned to Yankees with a vengeance. Hitting just .260/.324/.324 when he went on the DL, Jeter would use his new swing to rip through American League pitching from July on, hitting a scorching .331/.372/.447 after returning from the injury. The late season surge was enough to leave him with a final batting line of .297/.355/.388. Not the stuff legends are made of, but an awful lot better than where Jeter was headed before the time off.
Of course, the highlight of the season for Jeter was getting his 3,000th hit in style. Not only blasting David Price‘s offering into the left-center field bleachers for the monumental hit itself, but going 5-for-5 on the day and ultimately driving in the go ahead run in the 8th inning. The entire day was unforgettable, truly befitting of both the moment and the man, and an event that will almost certainly end up as the defining moment of the entire 2011 season for the Yankees.
So what does the future hold for Jeter? Whatever he wants it to, for better or worse. Whether Jeter found the fountain of youth at Steinbrenner Field or not, he’s still in mostly uncharted water with respect to his age and position. It’s all but impossible to project what’s around the corner for Jeter, and how long he’ll be able to be the everyday shortstop for this team. But one thing is certain; he’ll have to be forced out of the spot before anything changes. For now, he’s firmly entrenched at the position, and at the top of the Yankees’ lineup.
But if the 2011 season proved anything, it’s that Derek Jeter might not be done adding to his Hall of Fame credentials after all.